Truck Troubles and Mongolia to Russia Week 22 14th - 15th September 2011

For some silly reason, probably because the family were taking their visitors to the Kazakhstan border, we got up early and left early.

We have to cross the border into Russia, and there isn't a border to Kazakhstan, so we are somewhat confused.

We also have another day before our Russian visas are valid for entry.

The outside temperature is below zero. Inside is cold.

Good news though, the heater started ok.

By the time this photo (of hostess (Klara), two children, sister and one of her children, the inside temperature was up to at least 10 degrees C.

The Aldi down jacket has its uses after all!

We aren't quite sure why but Ali is now the proud owner of an embroidered waistcoat.

We must remember to send a pair of binoculars for our host's father.

Our host (Nurshuak), Ali and I. Outside was still around zero.
Did we mention that we are encountering Muslims again.

This part of Mongolia is populated mostly with Kazakhs.

This is the small mosque in Tsagaannuur.

One corner of the fence around Tsagaannuur.

We are about 3 km from the centre of town.

The road west is through a wide valley. Another 36 km to the border.

We think this is the other side of Ikh Turgen Uul.

We've decided to simply camp near the border and cross on the 15th in line with Russian visa.

After thinking about the welding and what was happening in the sub-frame I decided to redistribute a bit of weight.

It was also past time to rotate a few tyres. There are signs of them wearing unevenly - something I needed to know was the impact of low tyre pressures, useful for sand and rough ground, on tyre wear. The new spares are now on the front. When the rears have worn some more I'll replace them with the wheels that have comm off the front.

We'll need new tyres in Europe. Nowhere near the life I was hoping for

We stopped in the middle of nowhere and a wandering Mongolian herder stopped to help. He was gone before I could thank him. His pregnant wife and child also turned up with some snacks.

The source of the problem of cracked sub-frame was the weight of the spare wheels cantilevered over the rear.

A long story that starts with the original chassis having been cut short by the previous owner which meant the cantilever had to be a little more than 1m beyond the rear pivot connection to the chassis.

With the original 16in wheels and Michelin XZL tyres it all looked reasonable.

A late change to 19in wheels with Toyo tyres meant the load was much heavier (lots). Of course I was lax and didn't persue the supplier for the weight that initially wasn't forthcoming.

Little comfort, but on a positive note it can be said that the design withstood some extremely rough roads over 30,000 km.

Perversely the subframe broke in front of the rear pivot whereas I would have expected it to break behind. Fortunate I guess. The pivot is vastly over engineered and was capable of holding the rear at a reasonable angle. The rear of the floor is "only" about 15mm lower than it should be.

The floor (and thus the body) is glued to the sub-frame with Sikaflex, with a few holding bolts. I was concerned for a while but I am unable to find anywhere between floor and sub-frame that the Sikaflex has detached. Its Sikaflex 252 with, I suspect importantly, glass primer for the fibreglass and general primer for the steel.

The new welds are holding but can't be expected to last where the original 100x100x3mm hollow section has failed. The strength in the beam is in the top and bottom surfaces, particularly the top in tension, whereas only the sides and bottom were accessible for welding. Speed was much reduced, if only because of an active imagination. Taking the spare wheels off the back and stowing them inside, almost blocking the door, seems a good idea despite the inconvenience..

There's a small change in ride from moving the weight forward. Not that the vehicle was prone to pitch in the first place, just that there seems to be better movement in the front suspension and a bit less bounce in the rear. 

A 4.5 tonne load on a chassis capable of 6.5 tonne was always going to be interesting for the suspension and wheels. There's a bit more movement in the front suspension now than I thought (bottoming out hasn't been a problem for us as it has for others). Most Canter conversions seem to be heavier than mine with different weight distribution so I've been careful about simply copying suspension modifications.

I'm slowly working through how to strengthen the sub-frame when I have access to materials and workshop. I don't see it as urgent at this stage.

Keeping the wheels in one place inside is probably going to be a struggle. Better than them falling off the back and taking some of the floor with them though. Tying the two wheels together at least means they can be upright without falling over - now to stop them rolling, with some wood, and bouncing! Fortunately the floor is plywood on top of the fibreglass.

This is our campsite near the border.

Parked in the sun so that the ice in the water pipes will melt.

I forgot to mention that the pipes inside the hatch with pumps (behind 25mm fibreglass foam) froze. Maybe it was the cold path that the latch and frame creates! 

So much for all my painstaking lagging of exposed pipes and provision of heating to cold water tanks. Fibreglass pultrusions for the "next one".

The outside temperature just before dawn was -12 degrees C though. Unheard of in Aus, so I don't feel too bad. Bonus is that both heater and cooker worked.

The source of the loo problem has become clearer. The box the cassette is in needs a bit of attention, the floor has dropped a few mm - a bit of Sikaflex that has given way and let dust in. Its below the fridge though so not as simple as feeding some wire through the floor!

Its really not too bad. Just awkward to get in and out through the door.

Fridge is also a tad awkward but usable.

Better than the alternatives we think.

The patient is stable.

One of those trucks.

In the afternoon there was a procession of what looked like fuel tankers from Russia into Mongolia.

This one was on the main road.

And the border town.

We now know it has a few shops, hotels, and money changers. Not on the map, or the guide books, but definitely there.

Just a reconnaisance as we are a day early.

Compared to the original itinerary we have missed Khovsgol Nuur. That lake that's in the same rift valley system as Lake Baikal.

With the benefit of hindsight we probably would have been stretching ourselves regardless of the state of the Tardis.

Despite our wishes otherwise the roads never did improve. The A18 was a rough track right to the end. Even the last stretch to the border, which is a formed dirt road, is harsh. The corrugations are just that distance apart that sends Tardis into wild oscillations at anything above about 10km/hr. A subtly different frequency to Aus corrugations - which I guess gets us back to why the spare wheels were about to fall off.

Watching the trucks coming from the border, some of them are off the road on small tracks, those on the road are painstakingly slow. We aren't alone in suffering.

We think that arriving a day early is reasonable given all the uncertainties in roads,  vehicle, and our own tiredness. It would have been three days but we count the couple of days with the family in Tsagaannuur a bonus.

Summary of Four Weeks in Mongolia Week 22 14th September 2011

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